• Straight into the favourites

    Cotswold Downs
    The 5th at Cotswold Downs

    On assignment at Cotswold Downs, the opportunity to play a new course was grabbed and a new favourite track found.

    The life of a sports journalist has its pros (and a few cons even if many don’t believe that to be true) but few are better than playing a course for the first time. A trip to Hillcrest (a KZN colleague gave me strict instructions not to refer to it as Durban) to cover a story – more about that in the next magazine – was welcomed with an afternoon experiencing Cotswold Downs.

    And that’s what a visit to my new hidden gem would best be described as. A golf experience. The course, built in 2005, is fantastic but the subtle experiences that add value to the 18 holes make it well worth the visit. Anyone from the area should be kicking themselves if they haven’t been.

    Hearty welcomes must be the first chapter in new employee training induction because there were smiles everywhere I went. From the entrance to the estate to the on-course pro shop right through to the 19th.

    The struggles of the past – the development was met with serious challenges during the economic downturn of a decade ago – were before my time. And clearly, the club and its patrons are soaking up the good times.

    As a former Compleat Golfer Course of the Month – read that feature here – I knew that I was in for a treat.

    Legendary designer Peter Matkovich is, in my mind, one of the best in the world, not just South Africa, and he’s worked wonders on this layout taking full advantage of the elevation and undulation. Each and every hole is a treat. Every green offers a test of your ability to either leave yourself in the right area or navigate the slope without a dreaded six-foot comeback putt.  Many would enter my favourites played but the 5th and 17th holes are the standouts. The kind of holes that keep you coming back for more because you just have to birdie them or take in the scenery.

    When you talk of something for everything, then the long par-five 13th which heads back to the coast all downhill is one for the big drivers to unwind. Just as my playing partner Ross Dewes, a PGA professional and one of the golf directors at the course, did when he launched a 397m drive en route to an eagle three.

    There are holes when strategy is key – the 6th and 10th require placement over brawn – and then there are holes when you are likely just going to need to take your punishment for a wayward tee and/or approach shot – 3, 8 and 16 come to mind.

    But golf isn’t just about a great layout with superb greens. It’s also what happens before and after you tee off. The halfway house is well stocked with attentive staff on hand to assist. The vibe after the round was exactly what you want to see … laughs, smiles and people settling into weekend mode, all with a view of new arrivals finishing their days at the 18th.

    My own game wasn’t up to standard despite a fairly good day off the tee. But then again, when you are out to enjoy the experience, the score was only one minor part of my fun and quickly forgotten when remembering the views, excellent service and sipping on a Cotswold lager. Oh, and trying to plan a return visit as soon as possible.

    Oh, and a tip for first-timers: play the 17th off the very back tees, you won’t regret it.

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